Foreign funds back yachts’ construction in U.S.

By: Lucy Chabot Reed

Broward Superyachts laid the keels in late August of two vessels that just might become the first of their kind: funded mostly by investors seeking immigration status in the United States.

The yachts — hull No. 1201 M/Y Challenger and hull No. 1202 M/Y Voyager — are being built for WorldSea Yachting, a Belgian company who plans to merge yacht chartering with cruise ship operations and offer individual cabins on yachts for vacations.

Construction of the two Broward yachts is being funded, in part, by the EB-5 visa program, a job creation and foreign investment program created to encourage high net worth individuals from other countries to migrate to the United States and stimulate the U.S. economy through business and job growth.

In this scenario with Broward Shipyard, 12 foreign nationals will invest $1 million each to build these two 135-foot (41m) tri-deck motoryachts. Additional financing for the construction will come from personal investors, and bank financing.

The individual investors are not building the yachts; they are investing in Broward Super yacht 1201 and 1202, two companies created to build each yacht.

For each $1 million investment, 10 U.S. citizens will be employed and the investor receives a two-year conditional U.S. visa translatable to permanent residency status once the investment proves successful, that is that 10 jobs have been created.
Ultimately, the construction of each vessel must employ 60 people, or 120 people total at Broward Shipyard.

“At the end of the day, you have to be creative, especially when financing from the bank is not coming,” said Larry Behar, a Ft. Lauderdale immigration attorney who wrote the legal documents for the foreign-national investment plan.

The plan falls under the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service program called EB-5. The EB-5 (employment-based fifth preference) Immigrant Investor structure was created in 1990, but it wasn’t fully explored until after 2001. It offers no more than 10,000 visas to foreign nationals who invest $1 million in either starting their own business or in an existing business looking to expand.

Behar, known in some circles as the godfather of EB-5, said this platform is different than any other he’s created before. He’s established the legal platforms for tourism resorts, shopping centers, gold mines, land development projects, a hospital and retail hotels across the United States.

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